Common concerns – Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route

Please note that the council have implemented a subset of our plans, as a trial, and as an emergency Covid19 measure. This measure is to enable the huge latent demand for walking, scooting and cycling to and from the schools in the area, and to allow children to travel independently while minimising contact between people. It will also provide an important active-travel connection between the Meadows, Blackford Hill and to the south of the city (to Fairmilehead).

The route is already proving immensely popular with walkers, runners, wheelers and cyclists, at all hours of the day and all days of the week.

Perceived loss of motoring convenience.

People feel that they have “lost something” because they can no longer drive the exact route they always have done, or turn the exact direction they always used to. However, for most motoring journeys, the impact on journey times is negligible. Normally a modal filter (closure to motor traffic) would only affect journeys in one particular direction, perhaps adding 30 seconds or so to journey time. For most city, or longer journeys, an additional 30 seconds would have no significance in the journey time – times which are already hugely variable due to waits at traffic lights, junctions, etc. If 30 seconds is a significant contribution to a journey’s time, e.g. for very short journeys, say under 2 miles, this is exactly the sort of journey where people will choose to walk or cycle, given pleasant and safe conditions.

Filtering streets is shown to reduce traffic overall, which also benefits drivers – shorter queues at traffic lights, better flow around junctions, etc. For example, at the junction of Strathearn Rd and Whitehouse Loan, left and right turns are no longer possible from Strathearn Rd into Whitehouse Loan, heading south. This means that cars are no longer slowing down at the junction to make these turns (and slowing everyone behind them) and therefore traffic on Strathearn Rd will flow better – capacity along Strathearn Rd is actually increased.

We like to think not of “loss”, but of reclaiming what has already been lost. Streets are for socialising with neighbours; creating community and place; chatting without shouting above incessant noise; and allowing children to play and walk without constant fear of danger. Over the course of several decades, streets have gradually become hostile to all but those shielded by two tonnes of steel. It happened so slowly, we didn’t even notice it happening. Now it is time to reverse that loss, to reverse those mistakes.

Increased traffic on Hope Terrace and Clinton Road.

We agree that these streets are not suitable for non-local traffic and it is not acceptable for motorists to use them as shortcuts.

To investigate these claims, we carried out two traffic surveys on Tuesday 9th March, both during the morning- and evening “rush hours”.

Summary of the traffic survey:

  • Numbers of walkers, wheelers and cyclists exceeded the numbers of motor traffic. Nearly 100 walkers seen in the space of half an hour!
  • No significant rat running on Hope Terrace.
  • Some low level rat-running observed on Clinton Rd – traffic should continue to be monitored here and further traffic reduction measures installed if necessary.

Experience from other similar schemes in the UK shows that:

  • a change of road layout naturally takes some time to “bed in” and for drivers to adapt (this can take up to 6 months)
  • once a scheme has bedded-in, traffic on surrounding streets also reduces
  • many journeys will convert to walking or cycling when a genuinely safe route is provided
  • 48% of journeys made by car in Edinburgh are under 2 miles – distances that can easily be walked or cycled

The benefits of a trial and the modal filters is that they are easily modifiable to solve teething problems. Please allow some time to give the scheme a chance to settle in.

Meanwhile, we will continue to monitor the situation and to push the council to provide appropriate traffic calming measures to eliminate antisocial use of residential streets.

Timed street closures as an alternative

The quiet route is proving immensely popular with walkers, runners, wheelers and cyclists at all times of day and all days of the week.

In addition, school children may travel this route at any time of the day and any day of the week, particularly for morning- and after-school activities and for leisure activities e.g. visits to Blackford Hill. Pupils regularly cross Whitehouse Loan to the Links and to the High School grounds near Strathearn Rd, during the day, to take part in school sports activities.

Timed-closures would require staff members to attend the closures and those staff then become subject to threats and intimidation. Electrically-operated bollards would be extremely expensive and prone to mechanical breakdown (as well as people driving into them). Therefore, timed-closures are not seen as a sustainable nor desirable solution.

Segregated cycle lanes on Whitehouse Loan as an alternative

Segregated cycle lanes would not provide the wider benefits of reducing traffic, namely more pleasant and sociable streets; lower noise; reduced pollution; and reduced traffic danger.

Segregated cycle lanes are also very expensive (£1million per mile, in an urban context), time-consuming to build, problematic at side-road crossings, and wouldn’t be scalable across the city. Therefore, we do not believe that segregated cycle lanes are appropriate for roads such as Whitehouse Loan. Segregated cycle lanes should be reserved for arterial routes only, where modal filtering would not be practical.

Emergency services delays

See Answer 10 below.

Speed humps or street tables as an alternative

Speed humps would provide no reduction in the volume of traffic, most of which is not local to the area and is simply passing through (rat-running) – streets would remain hostile to people.

Speed humps are also largely ineffective with modern vehicle suspension and can cause problems for those with back pain or other health concerns.

Liveable neighbourhoods – FAQ

Liveable Neighbourhoods Main Page

Q1. It looks like Whitehouse Loan is closed to cars. Does this mean I can no longer drive to the school gate?

A1. No, you can still drive to the school gate. Access will be maintained by following the main roads of Strathearn Rd, Bruntsfield Pl, then Whitehouse Loan if approaching from the West / South, or by following the main roads of Marchmont Rd, Melville Dr, Bruntsfield Pl, then Whitehouse Loan if approaching from the East / South. Many people will choose instead to drop off at the corner of Warrender Pk Rd and Lauderdale St or at Whitehouse Loan where the entrance to the school car park is. By distributing drop-offs in this manner, it frees up the gate for those that really need to drive close to it (e.g. those with mobility issues) and helps reduce the local problems near the gate such as pollution and poor driver behaviour, as identified in the travel plan.

Q2. Why don’t you provide segregated cycle lanes along Whitehouse Loan and leave the road open to traffic?

A2. Whitehouse Loan will still be open to local traffic, just not through-traffic (sometimes called rat-running). Segregated cycle lanes are very expensive, time-consuming to build and wouldn’t be scalable across the city. It is generally recommended only to provide segregated lanes on arterial roads and that residential roads such as Whitehouse Loan should have “filtered permeability”, to create low-traffic areas and safe speeds. Low-traffic areas are quick and cheap to implement and can easily be scaled city-wide.

Q3. Why not create the active travel route along Kilgraston Rd?

A3. Although Kilgraston Rd is currently popular for walking to school, the pavements are very narrow. Kilgraston Rd is also a bus route, so there is little scope to increase the width of the footway without narrowing the carriageway to the point where buses can no longer pass. Lothian Buses are highly unlikely to change the route. The Whitehouse Loan route also encompasses the rights-of-way and beautiful grounds of the Astley Anslie.

Q4. I’m perfectly happy with the roads as they are and I would never cycle with my children, why should taxpayers money be spent on cycle routes?

A4. Safe cycling and walking routes are required for the huge latent demand of “those who wish to cycle but currently don’t because they feel unsafe”. The monthly bike bus shows there is a huge hidden demand for cycling to school (160 participants). Every additional journey to school made by walking or cycling reduces car travel and makes it that bit easier for those who really do have to drive. It’s not about those who would (or could) never cycle, it’s about enabling and giving transport options. Modal filters are very inexpensive to implement – the scheme as proposed by JGPS travel committee would cost very little to the taxpayer.

Q5. If through-traffic is prevented from travelling through the neighbourhood zones, won’t this mean that traffic will increase on the surrounding roads?

A5. No. Studies have shown that by opening up transport options and by making it more pleasant, safer and more convenient to walk and cycle, more people will choose to do so. Motor traffic reduces, even on the surrounding roads. An example from Waltham Forest:

Some people believe that traffic is an incompressible liquid, like water, and that if you “block the drain” somewhere, that water must spill over into the surrounding streets. But traffic is not a force of nature, it is a product of human choices – when you make it easier to walk, wheel and cycle, more people will choose to do that. (Motor traffic behaves more like a gas, that expands or contracts to fill the available volume.)

Q6. If Whitehouse Loan has bollards near the entrance to the school car park, how will traffic entering turn around?

A6. Whitehouse Loan is extremely wide at this point and a small, inexpensive turning circle could easily be implemented, similar to the one below:

Turning circle beside a modal-filter

Q7. How can I contribute? How can I stay informed?

A7. A professionally-managed community engagement campaign will be carried out to ensure that school parents, school staff, residents, locals and those travel through the area are consulted and kept informed of any proposals. Or, come and join the JGPS travel committee!

Q8. Will there be changes to the area?

A8. Yes, and we recognise that change can be difficult. We understand the anxiety around change and that everyone processes change at different rates. We hope that people will see that the changes proposed will positively benefit the whole community, creating:

  • more opportunities for neighbours and children to socialise and take part in unstructured play
  • quieter, more pleasant streets
  • an active and healthier population
  • less isolation
  • more street trees and greenery
  • safer means for children to get to school
  • clean air

Q9. The Council are progressing the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route scheme [a subset of the Liveable Neighbourhood proposals] without consultation. How can this be democratic?

A9. A practical, temporary, and easily-modifiable trial of the Quiet Route is a form of consultation. And it is a more accessible way of consulting, because everyone can see how it works. It follows the standard business practice of plan–do–study–act (PDSA), which is an iterative four-step management method for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products.

In addition, it is worth remembering that no one was ever consulted over the gradual process by which quiet streets where children played and people walked and cycled morphed into congested, polluted and scary roads. Roads where no one plays, people are scared to cycle, and walking is no longer a pleasure. A “non-consultation” process which continues to this day, as private vehicles continue to grow in size and in number.

Q10. How do Liveable Neighbourhoods affect Emergency Service response times?

A10. Firstly it is worth remembering that all the Emergency Services are stakeholders in any road layout modifications the council make and will object if they perceive difficulty or danger. In the case of the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route scheme, there was no objection. The greatest impediment to response times from Emergency Service vehicles is traffic volume, and in many cases, quieter residential streets have proved beneficial. Overall studies in England show that there is no overall delay to response times after installation of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods for example: